This is republished from the Anarchism & Libertarian Socialism group at Daily Kos.
I hate to write a diary about freeing the caged mountain lion in us all that begins by saying “I am not” some things, but this one needs to start that way. Before you exit, stage left, please note:
I am not an “anarchist” or, to use the more socially acceptable term, “libertarian socialist,” although I do value much about libertarian socialism. In addition, I am not a “Marxist,” at least in the eyes of most Marxists, although I do value much about Marxism. I mention these things at the outset because Americans are taught to dread both, and because, having learned about what happened to Orwell when he got to Spain, I do not want you to think that you are being asked by me to take sides in a historical rivalry between what Wikipedia calls “similar political philosophies which emerged in the nineteenth century.”
I dread neither philosophy and study both as I see fit. I am saddened by dreadful history, but I dread more these days that many “white” workers in the U.S. who may not have very much else in the way of personal property do proudly sport at least one item with “don’t tread on me” on it and, as a companion piece, at least one deadly weapon, do dread President Obama as a “Marxist” because of his skin tone and his trying to kill off Granma, and might assume anarchism is in evidence in a commercial television show that celebrates deadly weapons and other things that sell.
I especially cherish the deeply democratic international Marxist modernizers Rosa Luxemburg and Antonio Gramsci, who, like many wonderful anarchist writers, have much to say about the culture in which workers are unwittingly caged. I am a democrat who, for pragmatic purposes, also is a Democrat, because I care about all of the workers and needy of the world. While the Democratic Party can sometimes be made to be slightly uncomfortable with being the instrument of the powerful, the Republican Party cares only about profit and, as a distraction where divisive religion won’t do the trick, making sure those deadly weapons are clung to with cold affection.
As a democrat, I think of myself as “multi-tendency,” a term typically associated with certain tolerant political organizations, not individuals, but which describes how I feel socialism needs to be and by extension those who call themselves socialists–flexible, forgiving, in solidarity with each other, open-minded, and not boxed into definitions, arguments, and undeniable serious grievances of the past. I have a personal bias in this “liberal” and tolerant left direction. I am descended from poor pro-revolutionary Cuban American cigar workers who were reading both Marx and anarchist writers and in mutual aid societies long before there was radio, but that is another story I have told many times and will not detail again in this piece.
I realize that tolerance is still a difficult proposition for some on the left. Since my 20s, when I first secretly read The Communist Manifesto, I was always bewildered and intuitively repelled by the use of so much time, energy, and paper in a political tract to criticize other socialists. And when I learned about the oppression and murder of anarchists and other leftist non-conformists by Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin, the latter which Eric Arthur Blair personally documented for all history, I was nauseous, outraged, and mournful about the loss of life as well as the loss to socialism and humanity. I am not trying to suppress knowledge of the bad from the past, but I am trying to move forward as a united left with those who profess to be anti-totalitarian and deeply democratic.
And it is not that I do not feel strongly enough about socialism to have strong opinions. Rather, I feel so strongly about it that I feel that I must view expressions of it critically. First and foremost, I feel that socialism to be deserving of the name must place a great emphasis on “democracy.” To me, rule by the people to be successful requires honesty, openness, and humility, a willingness to embrace and discuss matters of importance holistically, or, as I begin my personal credo, to “accept life’s complexity.” I purposely chose the hopefully opposite of a grandiose dogmatic descriptive, “garden variety,” to describe the kind of democratic socialist I am and to use in the name of my hobby “save the world” website. Continue reading